The Simulacrum According to Deleuze and Guattari
Brian Massumi. Originally published in Copyright no.1, 1987. Links to other works by Brian Massumi on the Web There is a seductive image of contemporary culture circulating today. Our world, Jean Baudrillard tells us, has been launched into hyperspace in a kind of postmodern apocalypse. The airless atmosphere has asphyxiated the referent, leaving us satellites in aimless orbit around an empty center. We breathe an ether of floating images that no longer bear a relation to any reality whatsoever.1 That, according to Baudrillard, is simulation: the substitution of signs of the real for the real.2 In hyperreality, signs no longer represent or refer to an external model. They stand for nothing but themselves, and refer only to other signs. They are to some extent distinguishable, in the way the phonemes of language are, by a combinatory of minute binary distinctions.3 But postmodernism stutters. In the absence of any gravitational pull to ground them, images accelerate and tend to run together. They become interchangeable. Any term can be substituted for any other: utter indetermination.4 Faced with this homogeneous surface of syntagmatic slippage, we are left speechless. We can only gape in fascination.5 For the secret of the process is beyond our grasp. Meaning has imploded. There is no longer any external model, but there is an immanent one. To the syntagmatic surface of slippage there corresponds an invisible paradigmatic dimension that creates those minimally differentiated signs only in order for them to blur together in a pleasureless orgy of exchange and circulation. Hidden in the images is a kind of genetic code responsible for their generation.6 Meaning is out of reach and out of sight, but not be cause it has receded into the distance. It is because the code has been miniaturized. Objects are images, images are signs, signs are information, and information fits on a chip. Everything reduces to a molecular binarism. The generalized digitality of the computerized society.7 And so we gape. We cannot be said to be passive exactly, because all polarity, including the active/passive dichotomy, has disappeared. We have no earth to center us, but we ourselves function as a ground--in the electrical sense.8 We do not act, but neither do we merely receive. We absorb through our open eyes and mouths. We neutralize the play of energized images in the mass entropy of the silent majority. It makes for a fun read. But do we really have no other choice than being a naive realist or being a sponge? Deleuze and Guattari open a third way. Although it is never developed at length in any one place, a theory of simulation can be extracted from their work that can give us a start in analyzing our cultural condition under late capitalism without landing us back with the dinosaurs or launching us into hypercynicism. A common definition of the simulacrum is a copy of a copy whose relation to the model has become so attenuated that it can no longer properly be said to be a copy. It stands on its own as a copy without a model. Fredric Jameson cites the example of photorealism. The painting is a copy not of reality, but of a photograph, which is already a copy of the original.9 Deleuze, in his article "Plato and the Simulacrum," takes a similar definition as his starting point, but emphasizes its inadequacy. For beyond a certain point, the distinction is no longer one of degree. The simulacrum is less a copy twice removed than a phenomenon of

bears only an external and deceptive resemblance to a putative model. Their imitation is only a way-station en route to an unmasking and the assumption of difference. more precisely. is forced to simulate structural states and to slip into states of forces that serve it as masks.a different nature altogether: it undermines the very distinction between copy and model. or if simulation is all there has ever been. but a differentiation. but claiming that it is in a life and death struggle with the simulacrum. The process of its production. Baudrillard sidesteps the question of whether simulation replaces a real that did indeed exist. the power to gain a strategic advantage by masking one's life force. according to Lacan. There is a power inherent in the false: the positive power of ruse. it is an index not of absolute proximity. The thrust of the process is not to become an equivalent of the "model" but to turn against it and its world in order to open a new space for the simulacrum's own mad proliferation. This even applies to mimickry in nature. on the other hand. or. and on their own terms. The dominant replicant makes a state ment to the man who made his eyes that can be taken as a general formula for simulation: if only you could see what I have seen with your eyes. It is that masked difference.10 The terms copy and model bind us to the world of representation and objective (re)production. but to reenter the higher realm of predatory animal warfare on a new footing. is defined by the presence or absence of internal. and the photorealist painting in turn envelops an essential difference. Imitation is an indication of a life force propelling the falsifier toward the unbridled expression of its uniqueness. A simulacrum has a different agenda. They will either take over or flee back to their own vital dimension of interplanetary space to see things no human being ever has or will. stylized images take on a life of their own. more real (a more-than-real) on the basis of the real. It is not an implosion. A silent film by Louis . thereby resubmitting it to representation and the mastery of the model: the corporation that built the rebellious replicants introduces a new version complete with second-hand human memories. write Deleuze and Guattari. not an end.14 It constitutes a war zone. an illusion. Mimickry. its inner dynamism. it enters different circuits. . the replicants will not remain on earth as imitation humans. . The off-world replicants return to earth not to blend in with the indigenous population."13 Resemblance is a beginning masking the advent of whole new vital dimension. "It carries the real beyond its principle to the point where it is effectively produced. But these "real" entities are in fact undercover simulacra that have consented to feign being copies. The alternative is a false one because simulation is a process that produces the real. A thing. A copy.15 I said earlier that the simulacrum cannot adequately be discussed in terms of copy and model. is camouflage. but of galactic distances.16 Deleuze and Guattari say yes to both. but to find the secret of their built-in obsolescence so they can escape their bondage and live full lives. authentic or fake. underneath the mask and by means of it. The reality of the model is a question that needs to be dealt with. no matter how many times removed. A copy is made in order to stand in for its model. that produces the effect of uncanniness so often associated with the simulacrum. but to force it to be a true copy. it already invests the terminal forms and the specific higher states whose integrity it will subsequently establish. is entirely different from that of its supposed model."17 Every simulation takes as its point of departure a regularized world comprising apparently stable identities or territories. "in order to become apparent. The simulacrum affirms its own difference. its resemblance to it is merely a surface effect. Pop Art is the example Deleuze uses for simulacra that have successfully broken out of the copy mold:12 the multiplied. the best weapon against the simulacrum is not to unmask it as a false copy. Ridley Scott's film Blade Runner shows that the ultimate enemy in this war of ruse is the so-called "model" itself. The resemblance of the simulacrum is a means. not the manifest resemblance. The simulacrum. .11 The production and function of a photograph has no relation to that of the object photographed. If they find out how to undo their pre-programed deaths. and now I find myself not only talking about a model again. As Eric Alliez and Michel Feher observe. An insect that mimics a leaf does so not to meld with the vegetable state of its surrounding milieu. essential relations of resemblance to a model.

The plot is simple: members of a well-to-family from the north of France who cannot fight in the war flee to unoccupied territory in the south to contribute their efforts to the wine harvest.") It creates the entire network of resemblance and representation. and the gypsie woman is saved."18 The undivided. jumps into an empty grape storage tank. Reality is nothing but a well-tempered harmony of simulation. ("It carries the real beyond its principle..") Then it folds that ideal dimension back down onto bodies and things in order to force them to conform to the distribution of identities it lays out for them. has a powerful deterritorializing effect: the mobilization of troops and supplies. about to be found out. Vendémiaire takes place in the final days of World War I. Both copy and model are the products of the same fabulatory process. when victory does come.. refugees to other countries. abstract flow of wine is the glorified body of the nation. The film is not only bracketted by grapes. the final goal of which is the recreation of the earth. It expresses the appropriation and production of the real by a quasi-cause. "does not replace reality . It presents itself as first and final cause. in which Feuillade's own film takes its place. a glorious nation. The power of the quasi-cause is essentially distributive.. a glorious family. "Simulation. it expresses patriotism. Simulation upon simulation. it produces reality on the new full body that replaces the earth. victory and rebirth. Every war. There they meet one of the daughters' husband-to-be and a sinister pair of German prisoners of war who have obtained identity papers by killing two Belgians and try to pass themselves off as Allies until they can get enough money to flee to Spain. families broken.. it is toasted to with wine." Deleuze and Guattari write. The world is a complex circuit of interconnected simulations. but rather it appropriates reality in the operation of despotic overcoding. His corpse is found still clutching the loot. The quasi-cause enables the French patriots to unmask the conniving Germans. refugees from other countries. It separates the good bodies from the bad. The Germans' plan is to steal from the vineyard owners and pin the theft on a gypsie woman who is also working on the harvest. Every crucial moment is expressed in terms of wine: love is expressed by the scintillating image of the faraway wife dancing in the husband's wine cup. entire regions levelled. The film is bracketted by grapes. as working parts in the same machine. But the war was obviously not won with the point where it is effectively produced. and it polices for renegade copies operating with a different agenda. He is killed by poisonous gases produced by grapes fermenting in the next tank. the creation of a new territory. That is why it is called a quasi-cause. in other words the bodies that agree to resemble the glorious illusion it presents them as a model from those that do not. His lonely comrade later betrays himself by getting drunk and speaking in German. the German menace in its highest expression is one of the escapees stomping on the grape vine. especially one of those dimensions. But it is an effective illusion because it is reinjected into reality and sets to work: it expresses love.. Its causality is an illusion. It was made in 1919. hard-working Frenchwoman that she is despite her apparent otherness. it swims in wine as its very element. The film itself is a simulation meant to . and the grapes themselves rather than any human hero resolve the dilemma. The grape harvest supplies the initial motivation that sets up the situation of the plot. It abstracts from bodies and things a transcendental plane of ideal identities: a glorious wife. (". This account overcomes the polarity between the model and the copy by treating them both as second-order productions. . and thereby spurs the soldiers to victory. just after the war. and thereby motivates the man to be a good husband and give sons to the nation rising. The plan fails when one of the Germans. . and the movie ends with a sentimental tableau of the vines and a final intertitle saying that from these vineyards a new nation will be reborn.Feuillade illustrates the process.19 and it shows up the gypsie for the true. heroism is exemplified by an altruistic trooper who braves death to bring wine back to the trenches to give his comrades a taste of the homeland that will revive their will to victory.. It arrogates to itself the power of love. but it seems to leave intact the dichotomy between the real and the imaginary--until it is realized that the bodies and things that are taken up by this fabulatory process are themselves the result of prior simulation-based distributions operating on other levels with different quasi-causes.

in defiance of gravity and Newtonian physics generally. an insect. So what we are left with is a distinction not primarily between the model and the copy. One. It is not a question of Platonic copies. but the distribution it effects is not limitative. It selects only certain properties of the entities it takes up: hard work. but to be human plus. In A Thousand Plateaus. one of the terms is an abstract identity and the body in question must curtail its potentials in order to fit into the grid.21 David Cronenberg's film. What bodies do depends on where they land in a abstract grid of miraculated identities that are in practice only a bundle of normalized and basically reproductive functions. presents an instance of this. In capitalist society the ultimate quasi-cause is capital itself. This mode of simulation goes by the name of "reality. There is no generalized indetermination. nor the fly human. as in The Fly. a deterritorialized territory providing a possibility of movement in all directions. or at least appear to. It creates a network of surface resemblances. The Fly." Art also recreates a territory. When the accident occurs. The fabulatory process. A scientist named Brundle accidentally splices him self with a fly as he is experimenting with a machine that can dematerialize objects and transport them instantly to any chosen location." The other mode of simulation is the one that turns against the entire system of resemblance and replication. its own life force. to contribute to the rebirth of the nation. And it moves in a world filled with the obstacles thrown down by sedimentations of preexisting simulations of the "real" persuasion. and the fabulous animal dies. . through the strategic mimickry of double becoming. Rather than selecting only certain properties. Artists are replicants who have found the secret of their obsolescence. or the real and the imaginary. Rather. is normative. Every society creates a quasicausal system of this kind. There are always at least two terms swept up in a fabulous process that transforms them both." It tries to purify itself of the fly in it by repeating the process backwards. The only choice is to keep on becoming in an endless relay from one term to the next until the process either makes a breakthrough or exhausts its potential. certain properties or potentials of both combine in a new and monstrous amalgation: a Brundle-Fly that can walk on walls and think and speak well enough to describe itself as the world's first "insect politician. although a failed one. Vendémiare is the first month of the Republican calendar. Brundle does not so much become fly. The goal is to reach into one's world's quantum level at such a point and. Likening this to interplanatary space can be misleading: there is nothing farther from free-floating weightlessness than this.insert itelf into that disjointed situation to help induce a unifying reterritorialization. and is as real as a quark. to create an as yet unseen amalgamation of potentials. a machine. into its pool of virtuality. Deleuze and Guattari invent a vocabulary enabling them to discuss both modes of simulation without lapsing into the terminology of representation. It produces a new body or territory from which there is no turning back. though as abstract as subatomic physics. but there are localized points of undecidability where man meets fly. In limitative or negative becoming as portrayed in Vendémiare. loyalty. Its operating principle dips into that world's quantum level. but of human replicants. toward an animal. it multiplies potentials: not to be human. exemplified in Feuillade's film. is immanent to the world of the things it affects. both terms are on the same level: rather than looking perpendicularly up or down. regularizing. The key concept is double becoming. spends its fuel. but only succeeds in combining with the machinery itself. In nonlimitative or positive becoming. good parenting. This kind of simulation is called "art.22 The transporting machine is on the same plane as the terms it combines. it selects them all. Every body has its own propulsion. They are surface resemblances because at bottom they not resemblances at all but standardized actions: what those entities do when called upon (the gypsie in this respect is as French as the French). There is no such thing as total indetermination. a plant. its own set of potentials defining how far it can go. one moves sideways toward a another position on the grid for which one was not destined. and reproductive. a person of a different sex or age or race. etc. but between two modes of simulation. but a territory that is not really territorial.20 which is described by Marx as a miraculating substance that arrogates all things to itself and presents itself as first and final cause. It is less like the earth with its gravitational grid than an interplanetary space. It is also distributive.

therefore signifiers slip chaotically over each other. the former scientist's only hope for a breakthrough is to convince his former girlfriend to have a child by him and the fly. Returning to The Fly. The challenge is to assume this new world of simulation and take it one step farther. therefore reality has imploded into the undecidable proximity of hyperreality. Deleuze and Guattari insist on the collective nature of this process of becoming. this deterritorialization is effected only in order to make possible a reterritorialization on an even grander and more glorious land of worldwide capital reborn. a breach has opened. He cannot see that the simulacrum envelops a proliferating play of differences and galactic distances. it was Italian neo-Realism and the French New Wave. creating ever greater and more powerful amalgamations and spreading them like a contagion until they infect every identity across the land and the point is reached where a now all-invasive positive simulation can turn back against the grid of resemblance and replication and overturn it for a new earth. but to very different. The idea is to build our own transporting machine and use it to get a relay going and to keep it going. We can no longer act like legislator-subjects or be passive like slaves. The center of meaning is empty. and a new race with superhuman strength will rise up to replace the old. as necessary to it as the fake copy is to the model. But in the meantime. therefore they float weightless in hyperspace. They did the best they could do. but they are not the goal. It is a question of extracting and combining potentials. Deleuze and Guattari. Brundle-Fly is deprived of an escape route. What Deleuze and Guattari offer. All of these statements make sense only if it is assumed that the only conceivable alternative to representative order is absolute indetermination. A circuit has been created between the real and the imaginary. How does all of this apply to our present cultural condition? According to Deleuze. therefore we are sponges. The original formula. He cannot see becoming. of course. Revolutionary or "minor"23 artists marshal all of the powers of the false their community has to offer. is that he will infect the human race with Brundle-Flies. therefore we are satellites in lost orbit. His hope. They create a working simulation that may then reinject itself into society like Feuillade's wine assemblage. Images are no longer anchored by representation. as inscribed in the bodies of Brundle and the fly. because they carried the real back to its principle of production and in so doing prepared their own rebirth in a new regime of simulation. a world in which the New Brundle can live without hiding and repressing his powers. That possibility is successfully squelched by the powers that be. particularly in A Thousand Plateaus. to the point of no return. Advanced capitalism. to raise it to a positive simulation of the highest degree by marshaling all our powers of the false toward shattering the grid of representation once and for all. are aspects of this process of simulation. is a logic capable of grasping Baudrillard's failing world of representation as an effective illusion the demise of which . Baudrillard's framework can only be the result of a nostalgia for the old reality so intense that it has difformed his vision of everything outside of it. The work of Baudrillard is one long lament.24 Reproduction. are not suggesting that people can or should "objectively" become insects. Both linear and dialectical causality no longer function. the point at which simulacrum began to unmask itself was reached in painting with the advent of Pop Art. or actually realer than real. He cannot clearly see that all the things he says have crumbled were simulacra all along: simulacra produced by analyzable procedures of simulation that were as real as real. The overman as superfly.25 Perhaps we are now reaching that point in popular culture as a whole. of either variety. and every bit as much a part of its system. was apparently flawed. In film. effect. Deleuze and Guattari argue. and the forging of a new ethnic identity. images and information having far more mobility and combinatory potential than ever before. but only reached obsolescence. The goal is life. and her fear. which they define as abstract relations of movement and rest. whereas indetermination as he speaks of it is in fact only the flipside of order. therefore everything is indetermination.combine as many potentials as possible.26 As always. abilities to affect and be affected: abstract yet real. even when it is seemingly embodied in a solitary artist. This cannot be done by whining. though perhaps equally intoxicating. Words are no longer univocal. is reaching a new transnational level that necessitates a dissolution of old identities and territorialities and the unleashing of objects.

8. Baudrillard. In the Shadow. 5. pp." Zone.83. Ibid. 99. Paul Foss. trans. p. pp. no.. Against cynicism. Cited by Eric Alliez and Michel Feher. 56. Alliez and Feher. trans. Paul Patton. no. 27 (winter 1983). 3. 1/2 (1986). p. 210. Paul Foss. and John Johnston (New York: Semiotext(e). p. 87. Jacques Lacan. p. Simulations. 9. 11. NOTES 1. Ibid. In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities." New Left Review. 103-115. 16. trans. 12. 1977). 4. 35-37. "Plato and the Simulacrum. 6." October. 48-49. 52-53. 11. a thin but fabulous hope--of ourselves becoming realer than real in a monstrous contagion of our own making. pp. p. no. . 10. Alan Sheridan (New York: Norton. Baudrillard. pp. 54. Robert Hurley. p. For example. 13. pp.. Fredric Jameson.. Ibid. 145-46. 2. Gilles Deleuze. 4. 1983). Lane (New York: Viking. 1981).1. Paul Patton. 56. Philip Beitchman (New York: Semiotext(e). 1-2. Ibid. 91. Ibid. Jean Baudrillard. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. 56-57. or the Cultural Logic of Capitalism. Anti-Oedipus. and Helen R. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. 70.. 18. 146 (July-August 1984). Mark Seem. p. 1983). Anti-Oedipus. "Postmodernism. Ibid. 7. 75. "Notes on the Sophisticated City. Jean Baudrillard.. pp. In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities. 17. p. pp. 15. Ibid. p.. 134-35. 55-58. trans. Deleuze and Guattari. 55 n. p. p.. Simulations.opens a glimmer of possibility. 14.

Dana Polan (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Here. On "minor" art. 162 (English translation forthcoming under the title A Thousand Plateaus. p.19. the "power of the false" is another name for the will to power (Cinéma 2: L'image-temps. the multiplicity is reduced to a doubling because under the Oedipal procedures of capitalism the nonidentity within identity takes the form of a splitting of the subject into a subject of enunciation and a subject of the statement: one of the Germans is obliged to remain mute. p. Deleuze and Guattari. 21." in Carmelo Bene and Gilles Deleuze. "Real" in this context has a different meaning from the definition given above: here. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Cinéma 2: L'Image-temps. 87-131. Paris: Minuit. 265 and Mille Plateaux (Paris: Minuit. 16-27. Anti-Oedipus. 1980). pp. 25." . 22. Superpositions (Paris: Minuit. "Un manifeste de moins. pp."). 172). p." see Mille Plateaux. 20. 23. Mille Plateaux. pp. Le Bergonisme (Paris: P. and what I have been calling positive simulation is described by Deleuze and Guattari as the eternal return (Anti-Oedipus. tr. 96-105. Parenthetically. "Appareil de capture. 177. p. see in particular Deleuze. pp. pp. Mille Plateaux. 360 and chapter 10 generally ("Devenir-intense. 1985. chapter 13. it refers to the "intensive" realm of the virtual which "subsists" in reality understood as an extensive system of actualized simulations. Gilles Deleuze.U. Deleuze and Guattari. see Deleuze and Guattari. 7-22. it is no accident that there are two German escapees: the simulacrum is a multiplicity that poses a threat to identity and is travelling a line of flight that must be blocked at all costs. On the subject of enunciation and the subject of the statement. 1987]).. 55-56. For Deleuze. pp. and Deleuze. P.. 227. Brian Massumi [University of Minnesota Press. 1986). Deleuze and Guattari. The allusion to Nietzsche is not gratuitous. On the concept of virtuality. On the "Abstract-Real. 1979). 26.F. see Deleuze and Guattari. 181-82. 24. 330-31). Anti-Oedipus. 1968). 26. trans.

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